ARC Review: THE WITCH’S HEART by Genevieve Gornichec

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: childbirth, burning alive, sutures

I was a Norse mythology kid growing up. And the books that I had read painted Angrboda as the de facto villain with Loki being kind of a quaint deuteragonist. This book tells the story from Angrboda’s point of view, starting with her third burning through her courtship with Loki, to the birth of her monstrous children, and finally, Ragnarok itself. Beautiful imagery, full of romance, and heart-breaking in its pivotal moments, this book has captured my heart, and I’m not sure I’m getting it back any time soon.

Author Genevieve Gornichec will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 9th, 2021.

Continue reading

ARC Review: THE MEMORY THEATER by Karin Tidbeck

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: violence against children

Intricately weaving together three parallel plot threads in one neat package, The Memory Theater is an inventive little package about a sister protecting her brother, that brother trying to get his name back, and a frightening noblewoman who discovered time.

Creepy and gorgeously atmospheric, this is a must-read for fans of Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore with darker tones.

Author Karin Tidbeck will be featured in a blog interview on release day, February 16th, 2021.

Continue reading

ARC Review: ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELD (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org| Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: misgendering, intersex-phobia, kidnapping

We’ve had installments in the Wayward Children series for fans of Candyland, Frankenstein, and riddles. Finally, there is an entry for Horse Girls.

Regan struggles to understand friendship at that pivotal intersection of puberty and childhood. After she reveals to her “best friend” that she is intersex, Regan runs away and joins a commune of literal centaurs. There is a queen in the Hooflands, and she wants the human. But Regan will stop at nothing to maintain her agency and autonomy, despite whatever destiny wants her to believe.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson (2021)

Genre: Horror Romance
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: NYX Publishing

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read an ARC courtesy of the author
Content warning: emotional and domestic abuse, blood, violence, mental illness, gaslighting

If you’ve ever been interested in reading a story of Dracula told from the perspective of one of his brides, look no further. Told from Constanta’s POV, we experience her tumultuous relationship with the ubervamp and her relationship with her fellow spouses, spanning literal centuries. It’s romantic, but it also heart-wrenching with all the gothic delights one expects from a vampire story.

Author S.T. Gibson will also be my first author interview of the year so look out for that.

Continue reading

Review: THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire (2020)

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: murder, revenge, Irish-English tensions of the nineteenth century, child abuse

One of the reasons that I am so drawn to Ian McGuire’s work is that the writer absolutely does not flinch away from the nasty parts of historical accuracy that permeate both the time period and his characters’ backstories.

In this latest work, we go between Manchester, England and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as generational trauma and crime in the name of a greater cause chase our two main characters, Stephen Doyle and James O’Connor, respectively.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

Author to Author with Sam J. Miller (#TheBladeBetween)

Photo by Howard “Howie” Gibson (website here)

The Blade Between is a horror ghost story about Hudson, New York, where ghosts of Hudson’s past join the fight against gentrification. Terrifying and moving, this is a book so nice, I read it twice. Author Sam J. Miller took some time to talk me about the inspiration behind the book, writing process, and books he’s looking forward to next.

Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm

Continue reading

Review: THE INCENDIARIES by R.O. Kwon (2018)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2018
Source: Chirp Audiobooks

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warning: rape, abortion, drug abuse, cults

I went into this novel having heard of it and subsequently posting it as a “pick my next audiobook” poll. I wish I could send everyone who voted on this one a thank you card because I listening to it in one sitting.

The prose in this work is tight and hypnotic, particular in its intentions and at times, incredibly heavy. None of the main characters are likable, but their journeys to the end of the narrative are simply fascinating.

Continue reading

ARC Review: WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi Vo (2020)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: December 2020
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

Cleric Chih is back at it again with their storytelling. This time, they find themself trapped with Si-Yu and her mammoth by a trio of shape-shifting tigers. To stall for time until the mammoths arrive and to appease the tigers’ desire for the truth, Chih unravels the full story of Ho Thi Thao and her lover, a scholar named Dieu.

Vo has such a knack for weaving otherwise epic storylines into so tight a space. Big emotions thread throughout, and what I found particularly intricate was the compare and contrast of how the tigers knew this epic love story versus how it was passed down among the clerics and throughout folklore. There are so many layers to this world Vo built, and the detail work is simply astounding and completely mesmerizing.

What particularly resonated with me was the violent presentation of Ho Thi Thao’s heartbreak during one segment of the story. It’s great to see a femme act out on page, and the way the narrative jumps back to the frame story to talk through how each character would deal with that specific grief. It worked really well for me, and provides a bit of indulgence that can’t be afforded if the story had strictly been told from either Ho Thi Thao’s or Dieu’s point of view.

Another epic distilled to its finest parts, I really enjoyed this return to the Empire of Ahn and can’t wait to read more of Vo’s work.

Review: EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE by Nghi Vo (2020)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2020
Source: Physical copy

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cleric Chih visits a lonely former handmaiden to the Empress of Salt of Fortune once her estate opens up to visit. The story that unfolds is epic in scope as a marriage of alliance turns into exile turns into conquest. But the presentation is so intimate and quiet, especially as chapters start with descriptions of objects found throughout the estate and Rabbit’s focus is primarily on her relationship with In-yo and the other servants who were at court alongside her.

There was a deep sense of melancholy, not so much regret, threaded throughout the elegant prose. But not so much regret, which I found fascinating. Rabbit’s retelling is filled with making sure she spoke her truth, but also ensuring that the listener, Chih and by extension, the reader, internalizes this fable-like history. The court intrigue is top-notch, but it serves as a background to the intensely relationship-driven narrative. The devotion Rabbit felt towards In-yo dripped off the page and it was compelling in a way that wasn’t entirely tragic. The strength of that relationship kept me wanting to know how the story ends. I really liked how Vo directed the storytelling in a way that assumes the reader knows the story of this empire already as told by history books in that world. The gentle but secure guidance made it obvious, but wow, did that ending land.

Epic, but pensive in a deeply personal way, a must-read for people looking for quieter fantasy novels.